NEW YORK
WITH FEW FASHION FIREWORKS AND THE BIG GUNS YET TO COME, IT WAS A SLOW MONDAY UNDER THE TENTS.

Carolina Herrera: Let the trends come and go. There will always be a customer for clothes that are timeless and elegant. But this lady's no shrinking violet. She loves strong color, bold patterns, and at night she even likes to show off a bit. Carolina Herrera understands this woman perfectly, which is exactly why she has such a loyal following. Retailers say her collection sells up a storm. Saks Fifth Avenue, for example, reports a 65 percent spring sell-through, reflecting across-the-board strength in suits, dresses and eveningwear.
For fall, Herrera was in a particularly feisty mood, sometimes veering toward overkill. She opened with a group of bright orange shaped dresses and suits, and then moved into softer tones--pale blues and lilacs, in solids and plaids. She tinkered with textures, playing velvet against lodens for some smart suits, and lining corduroy or mohair coats with fake fur. At night, Herrera showed some restraint with a drop-dead black silk and lace dress. But usually she went for high-voltage gowns, pairing bright silk bodices with velvet skirts. She also gave a nod in an unlikely direction--Helmut Lang's. Remember his industrial zippers? Herrera took them, studded them with "diamonds" and used them to close black wool columns for those big events in Cybertown.

Badgley Mischka: Mark Badgley and James Mischka are on the hip track. That's good and bad--good when the clothes were hip, like the black leather coat and skinny pants; bad when the high-priced stylist took over. While some of the looks would be equally at home at The Bowery Bar or Sammy's Roumanian, the runway trappings of spiked hair, Mod makeup, a blaring sound track and a digression into Prada Land were out of sync with what these boys are all about--glamorous evening gowns and beautifully cut suits. And there were plenty of both. The beaded or cut velvet columns were knockouts. And when it came to the pantsuits, some were glamorous enough to wear to your own wedding--at least the second time around.

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